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Hagel and the Democrats are literally chased out of the room by another bipartisan group with an even bigger star: Sen. Hillary Clinton. She proposes another bill, echoing Dodd’s “cap” with an ultimatum on further action in Iraq: “Require the Administration to meet additional conditions for success in Iraq, including the assumption of greater responsibilities by the Iraqi government within six months.” And if this doesn’t get through the Senate (Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to filibuster any threats to war funding), no problem: Clinton endorses the non-binding resolution.
The most striking element of the press conferences is the way they squeezed a third Democratic event out of the news. At 2 p.m., the leaders of the year-old House Out of Iraq Caucus propose a binding resolution that would rescind Congress’s 2002 authorization for the Iraq war, prohibit any further funding, and strike any plans to build bases in the country.
“During his weekly radio address on Saturday,” says Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), “the President challenged those of us who disagree with him to offer a plan of our own. Today, we stand before you, and the American public, to take up his challenge.”
I ask a Republican leadership aide about that plan. I don’t hear a lot of angst.
“A non-binding resolution may have enough votes to pass because it’s meaningless and simply political,” the aide says. “You take that extra step and put out a bill that does cut funding, and at the end of the vote, it would go down in flames. It’s one thing to get on the stump and throw a bunch of political rhetoric around. It’s another thing entirely to cut off funds for Americans who wear our uniforms.”
They don’t have the votes to pass it? “They definitely do not.”
The Republicans are answering the flurry of Democratic Iraq “plans” with a bill put forward by Texas Rep. Sam Johnson -- a former P.O.W. -- and endorsed by House Majority Leader John Boehner. It would prohibit Congress from cutting funds for more troops in a combat. Republicans expect it to get to the floor, but not pass. One of the non-binding anti-surge resolutions might reach the floor and get Republican votes, but that won’t change the debate.
“If they put up a non-binding resolution,” the aide jokes, “you’ll have to coin a new phrase. ‘Cut and run’ won’t work anymore. I don’t know. Call it ‘sit and bitch.’’’